According to Google, I belong to ‘Generation Y’. Contrary to what you may be thinking, no, that does not mean I am a member of MI5, and if I were, I would hope that such information would not be so easily accessible as to find on Google! It does, however, mean that I was born somewhere between the early 1980s to the early 2000s (although there is no specific timeline for Generation Y, Wikipedia tells me the former dates are usually most commonly referred to). After doing a little more research into my generation, whom have come to be known as the ‘Millennials’, I found that stereotypes and predictions of those belonging to the former mentioned title were pretty accurate – amongst being described as having strong senses of community both locally and universally, Jean Twenge, author of book ‘Generation Me’ discusses how she believes there to be ‘a sense of entitlement and narcissism based on personality surveys, (which) showed increasing narcissism among Millennials compared to preceding generations when they were teens and in their twenties’.
Now, usually if I were to ever be referred to as a narcissist by anyone who knows me, I wouldn’t be best pleased. However, I recently read an article in my favourite monthly magazine ‘Glamour’ by one of my favourite columnist’s Dawn O’Porter, who is renowned for being rather honest in her writing. The title of the column, you ask? “It’s all about me (and what’s wrong with that?).” The first rule of writing is to grab the attention of your readers, and the title of Miss O’Porter’s column certainly did that for me! However, the further I delved into this article, the more her words made sense to me – “We live in a time when everyone can have an audience – what’s wrong with wanting a round of applause?” she quipped, and I, despite myself, found I was nodding along with every word.
We have found ourselves living in an age where every aspect of life is dominated by technology and promoting your ‘online-self’ – the iPhone 5’s recent release is a prime example; I sat back in a mixture of shock and, I have to admit, a little bit of horror, as I watched on the news people queuing for hours on end in a crazed bid to purchase the latest over-priced and not-too-different-from-the-last-iPhone product, and within minutes the story switching to a possible war in Syria, and yet receiving far less coverage than Apple’s latest money-maker. With this being said, I am not grumbling against technology’s advances, as I think they’re great! I eagerly downloaded the recent iPhone update and cooed over how much prettier it is, just as when something good happens in my life, I will share the news with friends and family on social networking – whether it be in the form of a new haircut, or a good grade in a recent essay. This is all without even mentioning the amazing scientific advantages of technology’s growth; finding possible cures to diseases such as cancer and HIV are far greater than seeing a picture of someone’s new hairstyle, of course! However, what I am questioning, is how big of an impact this phenomena of sharing every single aspect of our lives on social networking is having upon what I have come to term, ‘Generation Facebook’.
Of course, ‘Generation Facebook’ extends far greater than Mr Zuckerberg’s little blue and white space on the internet, reaching out onto the likes of Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram and all of the rest. And within each mentioned social networking site, lies its very own phenomena’s. A quick browse in the ‘#selfie’ search box on Instagram will soon bombard the viewer with billions of pictures of smiling, pouting and posing people, worldwide. Yet, as O’Porter rightly said, “snapping a selfie in a smashing bit of clobber and hoping a few people say you look alright (is) just a lovely thing to be able to do, isn’t it?” But where do we draw the line when 13-year-olds are potentially making theirselves vulnerable online to sexual predators? High school age children are putting theirselves at risk of bullying? A drunken night out with friends possibly dashes your chances of success at a job interview you’ve been dreaming of since you were 10-years-old? In order of seeing the real online risks, a person only has to look at the Twitter profile of A-List celebs such as Fearne Cotton, and Lily Allen, who have recently spoken out against ‘trolls’ sending abusive messages about both of their children, or watch Atomic Kitten’s Liz McClaron’s recent documentary on her Twitter ‘stalking hell’.
Social networking is an amazing thing when used cautiously. It enables me to watch my cousins who live in the USA grow into young boys from halfway across the Atlantic, keep in contact with friends all over the country (and world) since we’ve headed off to University, or have gone travelling, and allows my mum to check my recently tagged pictures to make sure I’m not wasting away whilst living in Leicester. It opens up doors of opportunity, with Sir Alan Sugar constantly tweeting about career opportunities linking to high-profile businesses. It forms relationships, friendships and branches out to business contacts from the likes of LinkedIn. It allows you to partake in #selfieculture on a particularly good hair day and be reminded that you aren’t actually as hideous as you may think you are. It gives you the opportunity to receive recognition for your greatest achievements and gives you a virtual hug in times of need. When used smartly, it can attract potential future employees, keen to get to know the person who has travelled to Thailand, or works for a charity at the weekend, or seriously knows their way around a bit of computing. In the words of Miss O’Porter, “if the new definition of narcissism is promoting your life… into the timelines of strangers and hoping to get some appreciation… then so be it, I am a narcissist. Maybe it isn’t so bad.”